Anti-abortion activists at the Johns Hopkins University who had fought to form an official club have been fully recognized, clearing the way for them to use the institution's logo and raise cash on campus.
The university announced Wednesday that an earlier decision by the Student Government Association to block the group, Voice for Life, was reversed by a panel of student judges.
The issue has set off a storm of debate over free speech and whether anti-abortion "sidewalk counseling" constitutes harassment at the private university.
Voice for Life plans to approach women and their companions outside clinics near the Homewood campus to discuss abortion, as well as conduct on-campus demonstrations using literature and non-graphic images, said freshman Andrew Guernsey, president of the group. Guernsey said the group won't shout at or confront individuals.
Guernsey and freshman Monica Rex, another leader of the fledgling group, said the Judiciary Committee's decision clears a path for them to "begin the real work of saving lives."
"While the road was difficult, we have learned just how much this fight for life means to us, and how important it is that students at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to hear our pro-life message," Rex said in a statement. "Johns Hopkins has always stood for the very best in higher education, and we look forward to bringing our pro-life message to future leaders in the medical industry here at Hopkins."
With the official club designation also comes the possibility for Voice for Life to receive money from the university. Clubs request money through an application process conducted by the Student Activities Commission. Hopkins has about 300 student clubs.
The five-member Judiciary Committee made clear that money for Voice for Life was not part of its decision, which followed a hearing Tuesday.
"This ruling is not a judgment of the group's eligibility for funding, or a comment on the tradition that advocacy and awareness groups do not receive annual budgets from the university," according to a statement released by the committee.
According to Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea, advocacy and awareness groups can apply for monthly allocations, which generally are related to an event or project.